August 23rd, 2012
04:39 PM ET
9 years ago

Akin assessing candidacy with conservatives in Florida

Tampa, Florida (CNN) - Facing pressure from Republican heavyweights in Washington to abandon his Missouri Senate bid, Rep. Todd Akin is huddling with top conservative activists in Tampa to assess whether to move forward with his embattled candidacy.

Akin spent Wednesday night and Thursday in a series of private meetings at the two-day summit of the Council For National Policy (CNP), a secretive group of conservative leaders who are meeting in Florida before next week’s Republican National Convention.

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The congressman was scheduled to attend the conference long before he suggested that “legitimate rape” might not cause a woman to become pregnant, comments that have roiled the Republican Party and shifted the focus of the presidential race away from the economy and toward the divisive social issue of abortion - just days before the GOP officially nominates Mitt Romney as its standard-bearer.

Multiple sources at the CNP conference told CNN that Akin is being encouraged by leading figures in the conservative movement to remain in the Senate race even as he faces pressure from Republican establishment.

Still, several of the activists and conservative thought leaders here acknowledged the long odds he faces.

One person attending the summit said many were “spooked” by a poll out Thursday that showed Akin trailing Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill by 10 points, an unthinkable scenario just one week ago.

Asked if Akin is using the meetings to re-evaluate his decision to stay in the Missouri race, a source close to the congressman told CNN that he is “keeping an open ear to those people who are pushing him or questioning him on viability.”

But the source stressed that Akin is “getting a ton of support” from conservatives at the conference.

“He is down there to get input from a group of people who care about the things he cares about,” the Akin source told CNN.

Several of the conservatives attending the conference - most of whom refused to speak on the record because of the secretive nature of the CNP – expressed resentment at the aggressive and heavy-handed treatment of Akin by Republican leaders in Washington who have pressured him to quit the Missouri race.

At least two people at the conference named Karl Rove, a co-founder of the powerful 527 group American Crossroads, as a specific source of frustration.

Rove’s relationship with the activist wing of his party has grown frosty over the years, and sources backing Akin said they might not be rallying to his side with such vigor if Rove was not among those pushing Akin to get out.

Participants in Thursday’s meetings, though, said support for Akin was not universal among conservatives.

Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission at the Southern Baptist Convention, said that while Akin misspoke and has been treated “unfairly,” he should still drop out.

“I think it splits the social conservative movement,” Land told CNN. “Some people say, 'Look, he is our guy, we are going to stand with him. We think he can win.' And some people are saying, 'The odds are this is a fatal blow at least in this election cycle.' For the good of the movement, for the good of the pro life cause, for the good of taking control of the senate for pro life forces, he needs to do what’s best for the cause and throw himself on his shield.”

Akin addressed a small dinner on Wednesday night but made no direct mention of the scandal engulfing his campaign, two sources present for that session told CNN.

The congressman, who has deep ties to the Christian right, is also hosting an invitation-only reception on Thursday evening.

But much of the discussion about the future of his campaign is taking place during face-to-face meetings with top leaders in the conservative movement attending the CNP summit, being held at a hotel near Tampa International Airport.

Ralph Reed, the founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, was among those who spoke privately with Akin on Thursday.

"I'm absolutely confident that Congressman Akin and his team, and he's got a good team around him, are going to be able to make a thorough assessment of whether or not the support is there to be able to continue the campaign," Reed told CNN. "I'm really going to defer to his judgment on it."

Reed declined to reveal details of their conversation, but made plain his sympathy for Akin: “As a general rule, I have devoted my career to encouraging men and women of faith to run for office. I don’t encourage men and women of faith not to run.”

Along with Land and Reed, the conference was attended by Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly, direct mail specialist Richard Viguerie, National Rifle Association Chairman David Keene, former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton, pollster Kellyanne Conway, Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser, Americans United For Life founder Charmaine Yoest, former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell and many others.

Also present were a fleet of talk radio hosts, communications consultants, school reform activists and several Republican political operatives.

Little is known about the CNP, aside from a website which describes its members as “the country’s most influential conservative leaders in business, government, politics and religion.”

New members must be vouched for and invited by current ones. One person described CNP meetings as a “media free zones” where conservatives can network and strategize freely.

Even members of the group who spoke to CNN anonymously were hesitant to discuss the group, or anything related to the Akin controversy.

“I can't talk about what they talk about here, it’s all confidential,” said one CNP participant. “Sorry.”

When Akin was approached by a CNN camera while sitting on a veranda Thursday outside the hotel, an aide quickly moved to block the photographer’s shot.

Politico first reported Akin's trip to Tampa on Wednesday to attend the conference, but the Akin's whereabouts here and the details of his meetings were not known until Thursday.

- CNN Senior Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash contributed to this report


Filed under: Claire McCaskill • Missouri • Senate
soundoff (191 Responses)
  1. Rita

    Although, what I thought what Rep Atkin said was way out bounds, given he's not a woman nor has he been rape. ( I do wonder if he felt that way if a man was rape, and he was required to notify the public that he was just to protest his manhood) But I will him Kudos for not stepping down because his party is mad that he said it out loud instead of behind close doors

    August 23, 2012 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  2. Peter Munroe

    More morons: The phrase is "throw himself on his sword".

    August 23, 2012 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  3. CdnJIm

    Akin is not the issue. He simply said in public what he, Ryan and Romney all believe to be fact. Add to this that Romney still hasn't released his tax returns and is hiding pertinent information from the American public, and that fact that his church continues to baptize Jewish victims of the Holocaust posthumously and he believes that he is going to be a god over his own planet, (let's not even talk about the silly underwear, things are clearly nutso in Republican land.

    August 23, 2012 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  4. Karm99

    Why should he need council on what is already the established platform of the Republican Party.

    "No abortions even in the case of Rape and Incest."

    Todd Akin, go back to Missouri and let the people vote you out this November.......

    August 23, 2012 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  5. Lar 5

    Accept Akin's apology for misspeaking? No way. Mike has now become a leader in the GOP war on women. Say bye bye to the nice Huckabee, He's history.

    August 23, 2012 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  6. Debby

    I wonder if during the telephone call between Ryan and Akin, that Ryan told Akin to hang in there, weather the storm, win or lose, I'll continue to attack the "no exception for rape/incest" clause. Just an idea, not fact.

    August 23, 2012 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  7. Kris Craig

    @Howard

    "HYPOCRISY is valuing endorsement of a cheating womanizer, who publicly humiliateded his wife, like Bill Clinton, while demonizing Todd Akin, for making a verbal misstep."

    -----------------------------------------–

    Umm no, saying that women who are "legitimately" raped can't get pregnant is not a "verbal misstep." It's an ignorant lie.

    Introducing your running-mate as, "the next President of the United States" is a verbal misstep. What Akin said was not the result of a dyslexic moment. The very thought he was trying to convey was disgusting and stu.pid; that certain forms of rape are ok and that women's bodies are immune to getting pregnant from "legitimate" rape. This is a fals.ehood perpetrated by rapists over the centuries as a way of excusing their behavior.

    August 23, 2012 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  8. Kris Craig

    On the other hand, Bill Clinton got a blowj.0b in the oval office and then lied about it. The Republicans politicized it and his wife forgave him. It also occurred about 15 years ago. Oh and he never made excuses for rape like Akin did, either.

    Seriously, you do NOT want to be defending this guy, Howard. It's an argument you cannot possibly win. Even your own backwards party sees that. Desperately bringing-up Bill Clinton's s e.x life 15 years ago isn't going to magically shield Akin from criticism. This guy is finished. Done. Finis. Let it go.

    August 23, 2012 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  9. Kris Craig

    The moment Akin publicly expressed his desp.icible views on rape, his political career ended. The moment the dead.line passed for him to get off the ballot, your party lost that Senate seat. The American people have no toler.ance for those who make excu.ses for rape by spr.eading self-serving myt.hs about fem.ale ana.tomy.

    August 23, 2012 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  10. noteasilyswayed

    Any woman that votes Republican this November is asking to give up most, if not all of the gains that have been made by and for women in the last 50+ years. These white old Republican men need to just wake up to the fact that their "world" has changed and cannot be put back to the way it used to be. Vote them all out!

    August 23, 2012 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  11. Miki801

    I am sure that most Republicans just wish Aiken would go away. His off the \wall remarks on abortion have called national attention to both the Republican platform plank on abortion, and Ryan's support for the denial of abortion for "forcible" rape. This has shown that his denial is just fine with the majority of Republicans as a policy or as a lure for those who would remove all options from women who do not want to have a child. Limited government should stay out of the womb.

    August 23, 2012 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  12. Andrew

    Both the Republican and Democratic Party positions on abortion are outside the mainstream. Paul Ryan and the Republican party are far to the right of where American public opinion on abortion is but likewise, Barack Obama and the Democratic party are far to the left of where American opinion is. Obama supports abortion during all 9 months of pregnancy, and opposed banning partial birth Abortion. That is just as far outside the mainstream ( nearly 80% supported banning partial birth abortion) as Paul Ryan's belief that there should be no exception for rape ( almost 80% believe there should be an exception for rape in any abortion law)

    August 23, 2012 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  13. Kris Craig

    Oh and CNN, notice how many dots and other junk I had to put into my posts to get past your ridiculous silent censorship filters. I also had to break my thoughtful post down into several because I couldn't figure out what was causing it to be blocked. Every time this happens, I will append a comment like this so there's a record of it. Hopefully, you'll eventually scrap this broken un-American nonsense in favor of a comments system that doesn't deter thoughtful debate and discussion.

    August 23, 2012 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  14. Anonymous

    What's the big deal? Rep. Akins' stance is reflected in the Republican Party Platform. He's just honest enough to tell the truth about wanting to take away women's rights. The fact that both Rep. Ryan and Rep. Akins sponsored a bill allowing abortions for women who were "forcibly" raped. Sound familiar? Kind of like that legitimate rape thing, huh? The level of hypocracy being floated by the Republican party over Rep. Akins' statement. He used the wrong phrase (legitimate rape) but his stance is exactly that of the Republican Party in general and Rep. Ryan in specific.

    August 23, 2012 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  15. Glenn Koons

    Todd has to go. MO. is too important to allow Claire ruin the Senate and Mo. all at the same time. She was being blasted till his stupidity. She can still lose if Bond, Talent or Steelman replace Todd. Do the right thing, leave the race now Todd. And oh, Mitt will win the state handily if you do.

    August 23, 2012 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  16. Dave

    Akin is achein for a new situation. Time for tea.

    August 23, 2012 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  17. Dave

    "Akin", it`s the new Baggage

    August 23, 2012 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  18. Real Patriot

    surely as Romney flip flops...he will too..c-ya wouldnt wanna be ya

    August 23, 2012 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  19. Stephanie Gallagher

    It is a terrible shame to think that a slip of the tongue, a misspoken phrase, obviously not meant to minimize the horror of rape, should - because of politics - condemn a good man. I understood what Congressman Akin meant when he wrongly used the word "legitimate"...he meant that there have been accusations of rape in the past which turned out not to be real...where the accuser confessed to the falseness of the accusation. Akin was sadly misguided by an article (probably ill-founded) which appeared recently positing the theory that a woman can try to use her body to reject the sperm in such horrible incidents. I know I would try. The whole subject is so terrible and frightening but I cannot believe that a person in this country - but for elections coming up - being (in effect) stoned to death for words he did not mean in the way they have been interpreted. He apologized and if, as a society, we cannot accept apologies and cannot forgive...we are in pretty bad shape as a people and as a nation. HOLD YOUR GROUND, Mr. Akin - for all of our sakes.

    August 23, 2012 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  20. Dennis

    Yes,he is keeping a open ear and a closed mind to advice.Too bad that mind has been closed for decades!

    August 23, 2012 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  21. ArthurP

    All people have sinned against God. But, God is infinitely holy and righteous. He must punish the sinner, the Law- breaker. If He didn't, then His law is not Law for there is no law that is a law without a punishment. The punishment for breaking the Law is death, separation from God. Therefore, we sinners need a way to escape the righteous judgment of God. Since we are stained by sin and cannot keep the Law of God, then the only one who could do what we cannot is God Himself. That is why Jesus is God in flesh. He is both divine and human. He was made under the Law (Gal. 4:4) and He fulfilled it perfectly. Therefore, His sacrifice to God the Father on our behalf is of infinite value and is sufficient to cleanse all people from their sins and undo the offense to God.

    ----

    Ok then Adam and Eve were forgiven thus removing Original Sin born following the crucifixion.

    So why do all these religious types keep telling use we are born into sin?

    August 23, 2012 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  22. ArthurP

    Pray to God and thou shalt be delivered. If you are worthy that is.

    August 23, 2012 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  23. JORDANS

    In Akins brave new world how many rapists could and would sue their victims for parental rights. Why do the right wingers spend so much time" valuing" unborn life while completely disregarding the people already born.

    August 23, 2012 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  24. Rex33

    Paul Ryan wants to outlaw abortion in the case of rape or incest.

    Who arrests the rape victim, Paul?

    August 23, 2012 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  25. Luke,AZ

    The Republican party is imploding into three groups;moderates,evangelicals and tea partiers , maybe a fourth, Ron Paul's group. I don't think Romney and Ryan can flip flop fast enough to keep all of these disparate groups from eating each other. Gov. Romney may want to show his taxes to take the spotlight off of this impending collision.

    August 23, 2012 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
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